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The California Time Forgot

As an aficionado of random facts and figures, I was delighted to learn that our expansive five-county region in the upper Sacramento Valley holds only 1.4% of California’s population. (Human population, that is - I would expect the same five counties to represent maybe 45% of California’s livestock.) The cultural obscurity pleases me greatly. I recently blogged about a visit to the local feed store, in which the proprietor’s very young son came out from the back room, with a proud grin on his face, to show me the Daisy BB-gun his father had given him. It occurred to me on the way home that this utterly normal bit of small-town life would horrify nanny-state busybodies everywhere and, alas, was probably somehow illegal. Which pleased me all the more, of course.

Likewise, having lived for 20 years in Sacramento, I still marvel at the fact that Mel at the saw shop loans me his trailer whenever our riding mower needs service. I picked up the machine kind of late this afternoon. Mel told me to take the trailer home and come back at a convenient time after closing, locking it up behind the shop. It’s not like he knows me – he still has to ask my name every time I come in. The trailer is there for the convenience of his customers, free of charge. He’s well into his 70s and comes across as grouchy and gruff, but the man is as straight as an arrow. He doesn’t propose any more work than is really needed and charges much too little. Mel still doesn’t take credit or debit cards, either. Once a few years ago I had overpaid him by three or four dollars, and he called me and asked me what to do. He saved the change at the service desk until I came in a few days later.

I could go on and on. The drive-through coffee stands in town don’t take your money until they have given you what you ordered … and you might easily drive off without paying. The nursery leaves dozens of bags of compost outside by the sidewalk over night without any fear of theft. Other retailers leave their sandwich boards (you know, those A-shaped signs) outside over night without any fear of vandalism. I’ve had mechanics and technicians out to the ranch for some service work and they forget to send the bill. I rented our modular home to a man who, upon shaking hands when we came to terms, placed $400 in my hand and walked away without a lease. While having lunch at the coffee shop on Monday I greeted six people by name. The local printer stamps “In God We Trust” on its outgoing mail. Etc. We have our problems in this town – they’re not small - and sometimes I do feel like escaping back to civilization, but in truth we have a little slice of Mayberry that is worth holding on to.

Sometimes we get noticed in the big cities. San Francisco is two and a half hours to the south and, it seems, a whole world away. But on June 14, 2008, we actually made the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle: "A Town Where It's Hard To Say 'Gay'". The woman in the photo pouring the coffee – Fran – is typical of many people around here. She doesn’t like the big city, and once told me that she never goes any further south than Dunnigan.

Comments (15)

Need someone there who's only skill is teaching college-level English? :)

Beth, we'd love to have you! There's a state university about 30 minutes away and a community college satellite in town, but they're both being forced to downsize. Unemployment is still around 18% county-wide, and that's just what's on the books. There's always a catch, isn't there?

Yes, and they probably couldn't pay me enough for the cost of living anyway . . . We actually would consider moving to CA for the climate, but the possibility of my getting a position that culd support us and that I could live with is probably very low. (I do dearly love teaching explictly from a Christian perspective, and teaching upper-level lit and writing classes -- I am SO tired of freshman classes!)

I see that I totally undermined my credibility in that first post, anyway -- yes, I know the difference between whose and who's and when to use each . . . and that ridiculous error is most definitely the result of reading it in student papers too often! :(

Thanks _very_ much for this post, Jeff. Is it really illegal for a boy to have a BB gun? Okay, I know. We don't want to know. Dratted bureaucrats.

What is needed is for some like minded folks in small places to start some business that could employee the breadwinners of several small families. Then guys like me with 10 kids would leave the city in a heartbeat, knowing that the kids would still have enough to eat.

Oops! did I really write small families? Well, I guess there are some contexts in which 8-15 would be considered small.

Ben, I've often thought the same thing, and if I could do it I certainly would! Pity that more successful business owners don't have the same idea!

Lydia, in law-riddled and reg-saturated California we survive on the principle of "don't ask, don't tell". But since you asked (sort of), I looked it up. In California it is a misdemeanor to "sell, loan, or transfer a BB gun, or 'BB device' to a minor." Not sure what that means exactly. As for other potential violations, having the kid at work with his dad is suspect, especially if he's being at all helpful (child labor, you see). This was a store with lots of dangerous things about the place, so there's something else for bored CPS workers to pursue. Etc.

More to the point (on CA BB gun laws), a BB gun is considered an "imitation firearm" for purposes of CA law.

California Penal Code section 12556 provides in part: (a) No person may openly display or expose any imitation firearm, as defined in Section 12550, in a public place. (d) Subdivision (a) shall not apply to the following, when the imitation firearm is: (1) Packaged or concealed so that it is not subject to public viewing. (12) Used in areas where the discharge of a firearm is lawful. (13) A device where the entire exterior surface of the device is white, bright red, bright orange, bright yellow, bright green, bright blue, bright pink, or bright purple, either singly or as the predominant color in combination with other colors in any pattern, or where the entire device is constructed of transparent or translucent materials which permits unmistakable observation of the device's complete contents. Merely having an orange tip as provided in federal law and regulations does not satisfy this requirement. The entire surface must be colored or transparent or translucent.

I suspect they'd have to build a new juvenile hall if they enforced this around here.

I wait for this part of California to fall apart...

T. Chan: I just returned from a day trip to the University of Santa Clara for my son's piano competition. I still love San Jose, but the traffic about drove me insane. It took us 25 minutes to drive 5 miles on the city streets. I don't think I have enough years left to get used to that again.

Jeff, how did your son do? I like visiting the University of Santa Clara, especially the mission and the area around it, but the traffic is certainly grating. On most days I am fortunate enough to be going against traffic, but when I have to go with traffic I am just reminded of how insane our local political economy is...

T. Chan, the Mission and University are stunningly beautiful and Catholic. We were enthralled. It's too bad the place leans so heavily liberal and heterodox. I think my son played extremely well, but so did everyone. Very competitive! No word on the results yet ...

There are 32 registered sex offenders living in Orland. There were 23 auto thefts in 2009, 62 burglaries, and a rape. Some years, crime is a little less than the national average, some years a little more.

True, hmyer. We even had a drive-by gang shooting in '07 or '08. But most of those crimes seem to be confined to a certain dysfunctional underclass (illegal aliens, meth users) and don't affect the general population.

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